Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions

Subject: Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions
From: Phil <philstokes03 -at- googlemail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L list <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2011 17:27:15 +0700

I appreciate that, Gene, and you correctly guessed that I'm coming at this from the perspective of a teacher/trainer.

I don't mean to be pedantic, but I do think that acknowledging the real world limitations is quite a different thing from misidentifying where the problem lies. Companies can recognise we don't live in an ideal world while still striving to reach as close to that ideal as practically possible, or they can just say 'this is the real world, nothing can (with its implied "should") be done about it'.

I made the analogy earlier in this thread between laying blame for poor documentation at the users door (a view mostly discredited, but there are interesting parallels between this thread and the 'Writing to your audience' thread). Essentially, I don't see any difference between that mistaken view and the view that those with less knowledge are to be viewed as stupid for asking knowledge owners the questions they need answers to.

Any question may seem stupid to someone who is i. busy and ii. knows the answer.
No question is stupid to someone who i.. doesn't know the answer and ii. needs to know the answer.

The idea that you can somehow legislate between good/stupid questions is, in my experience, flawed. It depends on all sorts of contextual specifics.

Likewise, assuming the questioner is lazy or stupid is not a helpful workplace practice. Better to operate on a principle of charity and assume people don't ask unless they have no other choice. Time will soon tell if that person is a time-waster and incapable of the job, and then other actions will be appropriate.

Best


Phil
On 1 Mar 2011, at 12:49, Gene Kim-Eng wrote:

> Sure, in an ideal world every new employee would be taken in hand by everyone already there and nurtured. I've never lived or worked in an ideal world. Most new employees these days are hired with the expectation that they will hit the ground running, and are lucky if anyone even tries to coach them at all. Facts of life.
>
> Gene
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Phil" <philstokes03 -at- googlemail -dot- com>
> To: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
> Sent: Monday, February 28, 2011 9:34 PM
> Subject: Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions
>
>
> Yes, if you're the dedicated trainer.
>
> A company that recognises is has 'people less likely to be helpful' with other colleagues doing or trying to do their job needs to consider the value of such people to the whole enterprise, and how that value can be improved. Perhaps its not only the newcomer that needs (re-)training?
>
> ;-)
>
>
> On 1 Mar 2011, at 10:06, Gene Kim-Eng wrote:
>
>> They both have the same objective, which is to help the uninitiated avoid asking questions that will be considered "stupid" by people who are less likely to be helpful if those kinds of questions are asked of them.
>>
>> If I'm coaching less experienced "apprentice" types of colleagues or subordinates, I encourage them to ask lots of questions, including questions that might be considered "stupid." But until they develop the experience and knowledge to be able to recognize those potentially problematic questions, I encourage them to direct their questions at me, rather than at the people I want to avoud addressing them to. The responsibility for promoting a "supportive team environment" for a new member of your team is you, not the people you're trying to train the new team member to be effective at working with.
>>
>> Gene Kim-Eng
>>
>>
>>
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Phil" <philstokes03 -at- googlemail -dot- com>
>> Advice for not asking stupid questions on an open-source help forum (referring back to the OP's link here) and advice for not asking questions in a professional environment (where all are supposed to be pulling towards the same goal) are rather different kettles of fish. Or so it seems to me.
>>
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References:
Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions: From: Phil
Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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